The Dalai Lama and Career Transition

By Sunitha Narayanan

I was privileged to hear His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama speak as he accepted the International Freedom Conductor Award in Cincinnati, Ohio in October 2010. As a career coach, I reflected on his words to see how these might apply to life and work, especially for those in a life or career transition. These ideas are applicable to both career coaches and clients alike.


  • First, look inward. I was particularly struck with what the Dalai Lama called “freedom of thought.” A transition is a perfect time to “free” ourselves from expectations and listen to our inner voice that quietly whispers to us and might not be heard in the rush of daily life. What causes motivate you? What activities naturally attract you and fill you with action? What opportunities do you seek out that bring out your talents? When you look back at your career path, what gives you the most satisfaction and why? Taking the time for this reflection will help you create a joyful, productive and proactive plan as you embrace what the future holds for you.

  • Second, make a human connection. The Dalai Lama endeared himself to the large crowd by reaching into his bag and pulling out a visor to shield his eyes from the brightness of lights in stage and said, “if I can see you, I feel I am talking to a real person.” A simple idea with amazing outcomes. Have you reached out to someone in person today and asked or answered a question? Have you nourished a relationship today and planted a seed for a future rich harvest? Or are you hiding behind social media and missing out on face-to-face conversations? What are you doing to invite curiosity and engage someone in a conversation? Tap into your unique, brilliant self and be ready to offer ideas, skills and talents to a conversation. Give people a reason to remember you and your career focus.

  • Third, believe in yourself. Imagine this powerful sentiment from someone who has been in exile for 45 years: “there is no need to feel hopelessness.” If you remember that the word transition also means evolution, you can embrace hope in the midst of despair. You either are in the process of reaching a new destination, embracing a richer opportunity or switching your career field. A simple way to build confidence is to share your success stories as you create your marketing plan to arrive at your new destination. What problems have you handled? How do your skills bring a sharp solution to an employer’s problem? Point out the connection your results have to position deliverables. Stories create a visual picture of confidence, both in you and your listener. Do you want to be “a” candidate or “the” candidate? What can you do to make your competition irrelevant? This inner confidence will translate into all your job search efforts and make you a distinctive, stand-out candidate.

  • Fourth, have infinite compassion. I know you are wondering what compassion has to do with your job search. A central theme in Dalai Lama’s message lies in “…the more we care for the happiness of others, the greater is our own sense of well-being.” So, compassion is in the way you care and respond to someone’s pain. What do employers want the most from you? An ability to identify, recognize and empathize with their pain and a talent for making it disappear. Have you analyzed the trends in your field? Why are some of your target companies in the news? How can you use research and analysis to clearly connect your value to business needs? How closely do your personality preferences and traits match those demonstrated by high performers in your target company? Compassion also means being kind to yourself during your transition. Establishing a routine by including exercise, healthy eating habits and inviting your “nourishers” into your search will help you manage the stress proactively. You can also be kind to yourself by instilling accountability in your search. Tracking what is working and what isn’t working will help you celebrate small successes and alert you to what could be done differently for positive outcomes.



A transition can be painful as much as it can be joyful. The very nature of a transition is that it is temporary. The process of looking inward, having self-confidence, finding ways to connect at a personal level and showing compassion to oneself and to others has worked for the Dalai Lama. Don’t you think it should work for those of us in life and career transition?



Sunitha Narayanan is a certified career coach with a passion for connecting people and their talents to life and work opportunities. She is a co-active coach, empowering her clients to believe in their dreams, set actionable goals and actively create joy in their work lives. Her niche is working with clients on exploring and researching career ideas, writing proactive job search plans and identifying strategies for transition, work-life balance and career management issues. Sunitha enjoys writing articles on career management topics and is published in Mobility Magazine, H&R Relocation News and Career Convergence. She is with OI Partners Promark Company, a firm that offers executive coaching, leadership development and outplacement services. She can be reached at snarayanan@oipartners.net 

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Maggie Davis   on Monday 04/04/2011 at 08:30 AM

A thought provoking essay- integrating career and life issues we all face. Thank you.

Judi Heile   on Monday 04/04/2011 at 11:21 AM

Words of wisdom! Thank you, Sunitha.

CareerEase-Mila Asperin   on Monday 04/04/2011 at 02:37 PM

Great sourcing in producing an outstanding article for use with our clients engaged in the process of career change. Practicality leads the way. And your subject -client model, paired with the wisdom and credibility of his words will certainly make for a well documentent approach to the logistics involved in the process. Will also- certainly help to "accelerate" the intervention models we practicing career counselors may have used up to this point. A most valuable contribution to NCDA Magazine.

Mary Beth Ottke   on Friday 04/08/2011 at 09:48 AM

Thank you for sharing these words of hope, connectivity and compassion, Sunitha. They certainly do resonate with attitudes and state of being needed during life transitions.

Belinda Wilkerson   on Tuesday 08/02/2011 at 02:51 PM

Thank you for this article resonating with hope!

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the comments shown above are those of the individual comment authors and do not reflect the views or opinions of this organization.